Are Clients Ready for PR 2.0?

Man Leading DiscussionI first wrote this post in August, just before we started PRBC, thinking it would be a nice way to give others a glimpse into my thoughts, particularly since I consider myself a pragmatic practitioner and evangelist for the benefits of social media PR. Enjoy!

A while back, my good friend Lauren Fernandez wrote a great post where she asked the proverbial question: “What does PR mean to you?” Lauren and BethHarte began discussing the true role of PR as we enter the second decade of the 21st Century, and where we all actually stand with clients, or if you’re on the corporate side, with your organization. But it was this question from Lauren that really grabbed my attention: “Do you think clients are ready for PR 2.0?”

While I would love to dive right in and say “YES! YES! YES!” unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s quite that simple. When we – PR/MarComm/social media professionals – ask that question of ourselves, I’m sure many of us say “Yes!” but are we even that confident in our answer? The fact is, there is no doubt many of us in PR are trying incredibly hard to get up to speed with PR 2.0, learn as much as we can about integrating social media with PR and how we can really powerfully reach a brand or organization’s target audience. But the reality is that we live in a business climate, where time still does equal money (and boy does it ever in this economy), and where the jury is still out regarding exactly how much ROI social media can produce.

I certainly think we are a lot closer now in late-2009 to many of our clients being ready for the future of PR than we were even a year ago. But in many cases, particularly with a client that has had bad experiences in the past with social media, or works in a corporate culture where experimentation, risk and change are slow to progress, a PR 2.0 strategy may not be the best strategy for that client, and in some cases, may actually harm the overall public outreach and trust-building efforts of a PR team.

Does that mean we shouldn’t try to help a client learn, understand and embrace social media? Hell no. Part of our job as PR practitioners (and one that I personally feel is underused) is to counsel clients or executives within our organization—our ability to teach, counsel and advise clients about new practices or strategies that they may not have thought about before, or may not have realized the positive impact of those efforts. So with that in mind, here is what I propose: While not all clients may be ready for PR 2.0, we still owe it to each and every client we represent to at least discuss the principles behind what makes social media and PR 2.0 ideas successful and potentially worth their time. We must then counsel them on a POTENTIAL social media PR strategy that could powerfully help them increase public awareness and brand loyalty.

After all, at the heart of our business, we are counselors. And a counselor doesn’t always tell you what you want to hear; he or she tells you (or a client) what you need to hear. So what are your thoughts? Are clients ready for PR 2.0?

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